Montessori at Home: How to Set Up an Instagram-Worthy Living Room

Montessori at Home: The Living Room Space

"We must give the child relaxation from the continuous direction of adults. So we give them a prepared environment where they are safe; where they can explore, and where they can experience the joy of discovery on their own terms."

- Maria Montessori

Designing a play space for your little bundles of joy can be both exciting and challenging, and one doesn't necessarily exclude the other. If you, like many other parents, heard about the benefits of the Montessori approach, you'll want to design such play space with purpose. Moreover, for many of us, it's not just about functionality; our main living space has to look beautiful!

Do any of these questions resonate with you:

  • How to seamlessly carve out a child's space in the living room while maintaining it as a shared family area?
  • What's the key to setting up a neat, attractive playroom that doesn't descend into chaos after each playtime?
  • How to encourage a child to take responsibility for their space?
  • In a small room, what's the most effective way to design a play space?
  • What does the perfect Montessori playroom look like?

If any of the questions strike a chord, stick around. We'll tackle them all and more. Establishing a thoughtful home environment will pave the way for numerous parenting victories down the road.

Understand the Space

Location in a Home

Let's begin with the heart of the home—the living room. Modern homes often combine the living room and kitchen into a single, spacious hub, making it the central area where your child spends most of their active hours at home. In many households, this space is where your child will naturally gravitate, providing ample room for play and other activities, while also allowing you to keep a watchful eye on them.

We'll delve into the kitchen area separately, given its distinct function and a unique set of activities. For now, let's focus on the living room.

Living Space Purpose and Activities

The living room isn't just a common space; it's a dynamic environment where children bond with family, explore, and learn life's ways. This space is ideal for providing your child with activities to enjoy together, as well as toys and materials they can engage with independently—after you've shown them how to use these properly.

The realm of excellent, age-appropriate activities for kids is so vast that it merits a separate article. However, here are some examples to spark ideas:

  • Appealing and age-appropriate puzzles
  • Threading exercises, such as stringing beads
  • Posting activities (as simple as using a "piggy bank" with a set of coins)
  • Opening/closing activities involving locks, purses, or zippers
  • Flashcards for language development
  • Musical instruments for sensory development
  • Lego

And the list goes on. This space also serves as an arena for practical life activities. Imagine your child caring for plants or helping to keep the windows sparkling clean—not to mention learning the importance of cleaning up after playtime.

Pines in a basket on a Montessori shelf

Yes, even a heap of pines can be an excellent material for a toddler.
The texture is great for sensory development. And the kids love them!

 

If your flooring can withstand a watercolor spill (think vinyl or laminate), and you're not overly concerned about a few crayon marks on the walls, this area is also perfect for arts and crafts.

And books! This space is a sanctuary for books—whether your child is lost in a solo page-turning session or snuggles up with family members for shared storytime.

If space permits, consider adding an indoor gym—a haven for developing gross motor skills. Think Pikler triangles, Swedish wall ladders, or other creative indoor gym setups. This is especially beneficial if you live in a climate with distinct seasons or where outdoor play is limited for many months at a time.

Craft the Montessori Space - Step by Step

Preparing a Dedicated Children’s Area

Now that you've envisioned the potential of this space, think about a designated zone for your child's treasures—books, toys, and other materials—as well as an area for play. You want to provide space, large or small, where the child will feel comfortable and free. At the same time the room should remain comfortable for grown-ups and kids alike.

Toddlers LOVE gluing activities - and it's another excellent avenue for their sensory development.

 

Consider the lighting in the room. If feasible, position your child's play area near a natural light source, like a large window. Also, contemplate artificial lighting for gloomier months or spaces with limited natural light.

Furniture Tailored for the Little Ones

In the discourse on a prepared environment, I emphasized the importance of child-sized furniture. This holds true for every corner of your home, especially the living room. Consider getting the following items (listed in order of importance):

  • A low table and chair(s)—practical for activities where your child can comfortably sit or lay items on the table.
  • A low shelf, thoughtfully organized with trays or baskets showcasing activities or a curated selection of toys. Keep it visually appealing, and bonus points if you opt for a natural wood shelf. Natural materials are best for a young child’s sensory development. Plus, wood patterns enhance the aesthetics of almost any interior design.
  • A child-accessible book display, basket, or bookshelf—enticingly presenting a careful selection of books. Children are drawn to books when they see attractive colors, similarly to how they are drawn to a TV screen. If you want to increase your kid’s interest in reading, make the covers visible
  • A cozy reading nook—a personalized space, be it an armchair, a soft bench by a window, a cushioned corner, or even a tent. Don't forget to consider the lighting for this area.
  • An indoor gym—a carefully chosen set, such as a Pikler Triangle or a Swedish climbing wall, depending on available space and budget.

Visualize

Now that you have a clear idea of the activities and furniture needed, visualize the living room space. Sketch a plan on paper, a whiteboard, or use an interior design software to bring your ideas to life.

Curate Ideas for Inspiration

Seek inspiration for your design from diverse sources. Explore the wealth of visuals on the internet, particularly on platforms like Pinterest, which offers a plethora of excellent visuals for children's room design.

Montessori arts and crafts corner
Here's an example: a simple yet very practical setup
from this Pinterest post I stumbled upon.

Declutter and Optimize

Now comes the real work—clearing out the space to transform it into a kid-friendly zone. Begin by moving or stowing away any bulky furniture or items that obstruct your vision. Optimizing the space is essential, especially if there are items that cannot be completely removed. This is particularly crucial in smaller homes, where clever solutions like foldable beds and desks that neatly tuck into walls or cupboards can make a significant difference. Some tables and chairs also fold away, minimizing their footprint when not in use. Look for furniture options that can be neatly stowed away—a game-changer in cozy living quarters.

Then there’s the storage dilemma. Pack away anything not currently in use. Cupboards, closets, and quality containers become your allies in this quest for a tidy space. In smaller areas, think creatively. Is there room under the bed for neatly fitting containers? Consider overhead cupboards or shelves. If you’re already practicing minimalism, hats off to you! For the rest of us, now is the time to be ruthless in clearing and prepping the space to make it the best possible environment for your child.

Consider Maintenance

Put Out as Much as You're Willing to Clean Up

In the Prepared Environment piece, I stressed the value of offering a child a limited set of materials—a core Montessori principle that also makes maintenance a breeze. Limit the choice to 5 or 6 activities at a time. Apply the same principle to books—offer only a handful to choose from.

And here is the other part of the equation: regular rotation of activities. Ensure it's a quick and easy process. Store all books in one spot, if possible. Dedicate a separate cupboard or container for each activity type—pencils and paints, various paper types, building blocks, musical instruments—you get the idea. Elevate your organization by labeling your storage; easy access is crucial. If materials are scattered across random garage boxes or jumbled into a massive container, finding that one specific book becomes a chore. If swapping a toy or book takes 10 minutes, the novelty of this routine wears off quickly. Simplify your life with organized storage right from the start.

As time progresses, you'll notice certain materials losing their appeal or realize your child has outgrown a rotating activity. Follow the child's lead! It’s time for a change. Sell, donate, or pass these items on to friends with younger children. If you plan to keep something for a sibling, stow it away separately for the long term. The bottom line is to segregate unused items from the active rotation materials.

Montessori shelf
A toy shelf can truly only have a handful of activities at a time.
As long as your child is interested in the ones you put out.

You might opt for a scheduled cleanup of such “outgrown” materials every 3-6 months. This approach often provides consistency. Alternatively, swap materials in and out as needed. As your child grows, involve them in this process. Simone Davies' book, 'The Montessori Toddler,' offers practical advice on helping kids bid farewell to old toys.

Establishing and maintaining a Montessori shelf with rotating materials involves a learning curve, but it embodies a brilliant concept from Montessori philosophy. It goes a long way in creating an exceptional developmental environment for your child—if you make it happen.

Remember the Space Arrangement Principles

Simplicity. Scan the area for non-essential furniture, unused toys and books, or any lingering clutter. Evaluate whether it's easy for a child to see, understand, and access the activities that capture their interest. Reassess the storage solutions—shelves, bins, baskets, trays—to effectively showcase toys and materials. Look at images of Montessori classrooms for inspiration on how to present activities with simplicity and clarity.

Another way to embrace this Montessori principle is to think of it as 'Creativity Without Clutter.' While embracing simplicity, don't hesitate to introduce beauty into the child's space. Decorate with pictures, paintings, or cultural artifacts. Introduce plants to enhance the overall ambiance. However, be cautious to avoid overwhelming the walls, as this can turn the space into a visual cacophony.

Child-sized. Ensure your child can effortlessly access all materials. Sit down on the floor to view the room from a child's perspective. If feasible, provide them with a dedicated desk or table for their work. If books are included, display them attractively—after all, young minds are captivated by engaging covers.

Empowering Independence. By adhering to the principles outlined above, you're well on your way to creating an environment where your child can independently explore and engage. Over time, this sense of ownership will translate into a deepened sense of responsibility for their cherished space.

Rotation. Recognize that children often accumulate more toys and materials than can be neatly organized. The solution is to present a curated selection at any given time, regularly rotating them. Consider your storage strategy for materials not currently on display to ensure a seamless rotation process.

 

Next, see how little it takes to create a simple yet perfect toddler bedroom.

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